Concerns for Self, Others, and Families: A Qualitative Analysis of Family Communication about Organ Donation




Dean, Stephanie

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Family communication about organ donation (OD) is seldom qualitatively studied despite its necessity when consent for donation is needed. This thesis includes the findings from a study in which seven families were interviewed and surveyed about their attitudes and intentions about OD and how the media plays a role. Families discussed OD through the facilitation of the researcher who asked five questions related to OD. The conversations were recorded, transcribed, and later coded for recurring themes. The surveys and transcripts were analyzed using a constant-comparative method. Data collected from the surveys were not analyzed statistically due to sample size constraints. Families were assigned to one of three groups to measure the differences between two narrative forms. One group viewed a fiction narrative video while another group viewed a nonfiction narrative video. The third group was the constant. Participants were asked to complete a pretest, watch a video, complete a posttest, discuss OD with family members, and complete a final posttest. Each study lasted no more than one hour. Family conversations lasted about seventeen minutes on average. Most participants were female, registered organ donors, had a bachelor’s degree, and all participants were Caucasian. Findings suggest that despite the trends in research that OD messages on television are mostly negative, participants agreed that most portrayals they have seen were positive and showed donors as heroic or compassionate. However participants struggled to recall specific OD messages. Rather, they were able to easily recall several other health campaigns such as Relay for Life and Red Cross blood drives even though they were not asked. Family communication about OD centered on both the myths (medical mistrust and preferential treatment) and on concerns for self, others, and family. Many participants were more concerned that they would be able to make the right consent decision at the time of a loved one’s death than they were with their own mortality. This important finding highlights the need for families to communicate effectively about their OD wishes. Limitations about sample size and recommendations for future research and practice are discussed.



Organ donation, Entertainment media, Family communication, Qualitative research